The quintessentially European country of Belgium is home to an abundance of hidden fairytale architecture situated comfortably amongst modern fashion and rich chocolatiers. Having played host to countless communities and influential invaders, this country has its battle scars but fear not – they are all part of the country’s unique charm. From cafes to carnivals, travelling here is sure to leave you with memories to Cherish. So, while you renew your EHIC card ready for your trip, here is what you need to know about Belgium.
A Brief History
Belgium has always been well-known for coal mining, metal and textiles industries but more so than this, its rich history is always the key talking point. At the forefront of the EU, with the headquarters being located in Brussels, it has proven time and time again over the years that it deserves its title. Despite initially being part of The Netherlands, Belgium separated in 1830 to become its very own independent country. However, it’s prime position on the coast and between Germany and France also made it the location of choice for invasion and occupation. As a result, Germany successfully invaded not just in World War I, but in World War II as well.
However, it’s rich history and stubborn staying power has led this grand country to the heights it has hit today. With a vast economy and a population of nearly 11,500,000 people, this affluent country has continued to hold a large political presence to this day.
Popular Tourist Destinations
With historical treasures at every corner, it’s simple to find things to do in Belgium but for those wanting to stick to the beaten path, you won’t be disappointed. There are plentiful opportunities to explore hidden gems, but the tourist centres are just as breathtaking and well worth a trip.
Grand Place is a hub of activity regardless of what time of year you decide to take your trip. The Grand-Place de Bruxelles – or the town square – is a prime location for a relaxing walk or a spot of shopping. Throughout the entire year, there is a daily flower market filled with fresh scents and glorious colour and for those wanting to visit during the winter, Grand Place truly lives up to its name with a magnificent Christmas market, centred around the famed Christmas tree every year.
If you’ve always wanted to see Europe but might not have the funds or the free time to take a continent-wide trip right now, then Mini Europe in Belgium is a great way to see the best sights without the need to hop on a plane. This undeniably unique attraction hosts the entirety of the EU at a 1:25 scale, offering you the chance to take a stroll around countless countries all in one day.
Crafted in the image of an iron atom, this gigantic replica offers you sightseeing wonder to remember – but this isn’t just a statue. In fact, Atomium is actually a museum and exhibition centre, with plenty of viewing opportunities to get a glimpse at Belgium from over 100 feet in the air, all while learning more about the structure and Belgium’s history.
Belgian Comic Strip Centre
If you’re a fan of all things comic, then the Belgian Comic Strip Centre is certainly an unmissable sight for you. Creativity knows no limits here, filled with everything from TinTin to the Smurfs. You can browse around an insight into some of Belgium’s greatest artistic minds – at least where comic art is concerned! – and truly learn more about this incredible style of drawing. Wander amongst some of your favourite characters and get glimpses at originals – you’ll be spoiled for wonders, here.
Places To Stay
Belgium is chock full of incredible places to stay, from towering hotel complexes to quaint B&Bs that offer an insight into the daily Belgian lifestyle. Depending on where you want to visit in this vast country, there are a number of places you can choose. Some of the most widely renowned include:
If luxury is what you are looking for, then The Dominican may very well be the accommodation for you. With a perfect mix of old-fashioned and modern interior, you’ll be given an insight into just how Belgium grew to the extravagance it has reached today. This hotel sits nicely right in the heart of Brussels and is located just off of the Grand Place, so for those that are looking for a central location to explore the city without the need to travel too far, this is truly perfect.
For those seeking a truly unique hotel enriched with a memorable charm, the Jam Hotel in Brussels is your ideal choice. Mimicking an art museum, the interior has been designed with stylish modern décor in mind and while aimed primarily at young people, is still a comfortable hotel close enough to the city centre without the hefty price tag. Walking through the lobby alone can have you feeling quirky, surrounded by Kilner jars filled with cacti and succulents, as well as hand-made cushions, blankets and more. Having originally been an industrial building, you’ll see this kind of design too but worry not – you’ll still get a warm reception every time. With great transport links and plenty of rooms at different price points to choose from, staying at the Jam Hotel guarantees you a memorable trip.
Sofitel Le Louise
For five star luxury in a stylish, fashion-focused hotel, the Sofitel Le Louise in Brussels is another central location ideal for a city break. Treat yourself to optimal comfort in either classic, superior or luxury rooms, with access to an indulgent restaurant with an ambient atmosphere and delicious food, or the bar for a mouth-watering cocktail to unwind in the evening. In your room, you’ll be treated to a minibar, free mineral water, Wi-Fi, work desks, air conditioning and tea and coffee making facilities, as well as perfect views of Belgium’s greatest city all without leaving the comfort of your accommodation.
Ways To Travel
Travelling around Belgium is simple thanks to well-linked and affordable public transport. As with any country, there are certain areas that require a little more planning and careful thinking, but the main cities play host to extensive bus schedules, metro routes and, of course, taxi services. If you want to hire a car, driving here is the same as any other country in Europe – the opposite side to the UK! – But hiring a reliable and trustworthy car is also simple and often affordable in most cases.
If you want to travel between cities in Belgium, we suggest utilising the train – this is a more affordable option than car hire and with their extensive services, you’ll very rarely be waiting for long.
Despite being similar to the UK in climate and culture, Belgium is still a brand new country and navigating can take a spot of thought. We’ve got just a few tips to help you get started, below:
Be Ready For The Weather
Just like the UK, the weather can be rather unpredictable at times so we suggest that when you travel to Belgium, that you remember to pack an umbrella and a coat! Although the temperamental weather definitely won’t ruin the overall experience of the country, being prepared can ensure you stay dry if it does decide to rain, or cool if the weather takes a turn for the better.
Don’t Be Afraid To Get Lost
Getting ‘lost’ in any country isn’t exactly easy with our access to smartphones nowadays, but wandering away from the beaten track can help you discover hidden gems you may never have known existed. You can get a glimpse at some of Belgium’s greatest under-appreciated architecture, or wander find a local restaurant that will let you sample some of the best tasting dishes that the country has to offer – you could even discover local Belgian chocolatiers!
Try The Food
We strongly suggest that you try as much of the local cuisine as possible. Those with a sweet tooth can find an abundance of Belgian waffles and chocolate here, but if you’re looking for something more savoury to fill you up come meal time, why not give Moules-Frites a try? Known as muscles and fries to us, this dish is a national delicacy in Belgium, but if seafood isn’t your thing, Carbonade Flamande is a stew dish similar to the French beef bourguignon.
We hope that this travel guide has given you an insight into what this incredible country has to offer and has given you a helping hand in planning your trip there. Remember to take your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) with you, so that you are prepared in case of an unfortunate accident or illness whilst you’re there.
You can apply for a new EHIC here if you need to renew it or have any of your questions answered here about your EHIC. You can contact us at any time with any additional questions, and we will do our utmost to help you. All you need to do now is book your holiday to Belgium and see where the country will take you!